St Savin

The village of St Savin, situated on the bank of the river Gartempe, in the department of the Vienne, about 40 kilometres east of Poitiers, is a World Heritage Site, thanks to its marvellous frescoed church.

The church is thought to have been built in the 11th century, and the frescoes were done at about the same time. Covering an area of several hundred square metres, the paintings illustrate more than 50 episodes from the Old Testament; Cain and Abel, Noah, The Tower of Babel, the Apocalypse…


It is not known how these marvellous paintings survived the bloody wars that raged over this part of France in the period between their creation and the year 1835, but what is certain is that in that year, one Prosper Mérimée, an officer in the Historic Buildings Inspectorate, happened upon the village of St Savin, at the end of a muddy track, and discovered the frescoes. In poor condition as they then were, Mérimée had to fight hard both to have them listed as a historic monument and to stop unscrupulous administrators having them split up and sold off.

Finally, in 1984, Unesco recognised the importance of the site, and the paintings should now be safe, maybe for another thousand years.

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